Dáil debates

Thursday, 28 April 2005

10:30 am

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is proposed to take No. 16, Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Bill 2005 — Second Stage (resumed); No. 17, Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004 — Second Stage (resumed); and No. 1, Veterinary Practice Bill 2004 — Second Stage. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil, on its rising today, shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 4 May 2005.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the proposal for dealing with the adjournment of the Dáil until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 4 May 2005 agreed to? Agreed.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I thought for a moment that the entire Government had gone to Spain to discuss the Irish language. However, the Minister for Defence, Deputy O'Dea, has arrived to accompany the Minister for Finance.

The European Commission presented a Green Paper on the harmonisation of divorce legislation. Has the Government given this any consideration? Will it entail changes contradictory to the terms for which Irish people voted, namely, a four-year separation?

The Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill 2004 was on the Government C list of legislation last autumn, but has since been removed. Does the Government intend to proceed with the Bill or will it appear in another form?

Considerable concern is being expressed within the business community with regard to expenditure on infrastructure over the next 20 years. There is strong criticism regarding the delay of many major projects because of the need to refer those in excess of €20 million to the National Development Finance Agency. The agency does not have the capacity or resources to assess all referrals.

I queried the Taoiseach yesterday regarding three sections of the Children Act 2001 and he said he would find the information. Perhaps the Minister for Finance would inquire as to why section 96, which deals with the principles relating to the exercise of criminal jurisdiction over children, has not been commenced.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Regarding the Deputy's first question about the Green Paper, the treaty provisions governing judicial co-operation in civil law matters provide that Ireland has an opt-in to measures in this area either when a proposal is tabled or following its adoption. If the Commission were to come forward with proposals arising from the Green Paper, which is by no means certain, Ireland would have a choice whether to opt in to the measure. Ireland is not bound by any measure to which it does not opt in. Our entitlement to opt in to civil law measures is preserved by protocol 19 of the new constitutional treaty which was negotiated during our EU Presidency. Similarly, decision-making by unanimity is retained for the purposes of family law matters. In respect of any issue that might arise, the Government's starting point will be that any measures taken in this area will not be allowed to undermine our domestic law on divorce.

The Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill 2004 is no longer on the list because provisions envisaged for this Bill will be incorporated in the financial services consolidation Bill.

The Leader of the Opposition may or not be aware that I recently revised the guidelines regarding appraisal of capital projects and I refer him to the details in respect of the role the National Development Finance Agency will now play with regard to the relative size of projects. In many cases, matters are not held up because of any delay in the NDFA. Environmental and other issues also come into play.

Regarding section 96 of the Children Act, I will refer back to the Deputy when I have spoken to the Minister.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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As a former Minister for Health and Children, the Minister for Finance is probably more aware and better informed about the crisis in accident and emergency services than the Taoiseach. He probably read the briefing and listened to advice regarding what was happening in the health service unlike the former Minister, Deputy Martin.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should only pose questions appropriate to the Order of Business.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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Is the Minister for Finance aware that he is now being blamed for the delay in the publication——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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If the Deputy has a question appropriate to the Order of Business we will hear it. If not I will call Deputy Sargent.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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I have a question.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should come to the question.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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The Minister for Finance and his Department are being blamed for the delay in the publication of the public capital programme. We are now coming into the fifth month of the year.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That matter does not arise. I suggest that the Deputy submit a question to the Minister. I call Deputy Sargent.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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When will we see publication of the public capital programme? In the meantime can the health information and quality authority Bill be published to ensure patients on trolleys are not charged €55 per day?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made her point. I call the Minister on the legislation.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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This is despite not having a bed and some privacy and dignity.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made her point. We cannot debate the contents of the Bill.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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When will we see the coroners Bill?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call the Minister on the coroners Bill.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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The State Pathologist has no driver.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That matter does not arise on the Order of Business.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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In the interim before a Bill is published the State Pathologist should be provided——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I will allow the Minister to answer the Deputy's two legitimate questions on legislation.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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——with a driver in the interest of crime detection——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I have called the Minister to answer the Deputy's questions.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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——and ensuring she is enabled to carry out her vital work——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to resume her seat.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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——which she does in very difficult circumstances.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Minister to reply on the two pieces of legislation.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Did the Deputy ask about two pieces? I only heard one.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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I know the Minister did not hear because the Ceann Comhairle kept interrupting me.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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He kept interrupting very rudely.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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I could repeat my questions.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I ask the Deputy to paraphrase.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Well done, Minister.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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Concern has been expressed over the delay in the public capital programme, for which the Minister for Finance is responsible.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That question does not relate to legislation.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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I asked about the health information and quality authority Bill and the coroners Bill.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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If the Ceann Comhairle were quiet this would have been over long ago.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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As a Whip, Deputy Stagg has a major contribution to make to Dáil reform. If he believes the Order of Business should be an omnibus question time and gets the agreement of the House, the Chair would be absolutely delighted to implement it.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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The Ceann Comhairle should speak to his own Whip.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Chair is in the fortunate position of having no Whip.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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That may be just as well.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The coroners Bill is due next year. Placing the health information and quality authority and the Irish social services inspectorate on a statutory basis is envisaged in the enactment of the Health Bill 2005. The publication date is this year. I cannot give the exact time. I am sure the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children would be able to give more detailed information on the matter if the Deputy tabled a parliamentary question.

As regards the matter generally, the full co-operation of everybody in the acute hospital services is required to deal with the current issues. Dealing with the problem involves not simply trying to improve capacity in accident and emergency departments, but also involves co-operation from consultants throughout the hospitals particularly regarding elective surgery. It is also a question of allowing people to move through the hospital if necessary rather than being left in the accident and emergency departments.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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There are no beds.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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These matters need to be resolved with the Law Reform Commission.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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There are no beds in Wexford General Hospital. Patients needed to be moved into the children's ward last weekend.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy McManus should quieten that tadpole. Deputy Howlin was the worst Minister for Health in the history of the State.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The question cannot simply be dealt with on the basis of adding to the status quo, but by reorganising the service within the acute hospital system. This requires not simply the commitment of more resources, which are envisaged by the Government in the package announced by the Tánaiste to be implemented this year, it requires the full co-operation of everybody in the acute hospital system, including consultants. Regarding the accident and emergency department as in some way separate from the rest of a hospital is not a means by which these matters can be resolved. In many parts of the health service this problem is not as acute as it is in some hospitals. There are reasons why problems exist in those hospitals——

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Inadequate bed numbers.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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——which include the requirement in some instances to improve capacity in accident and emergency departments, but also the requirement for co-operation from everyone else in such hospitals to ensure that priority is given to the resolution of the problem, which is how it will be resolved. All of us in this House should encourage management and staff to engage in that exercise in the interests of patients being dealt with in a better way than is the case in some hospitals at present. That is the solution to the problem.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy McManus.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Would the Minister also agree to co-operate with the State Pathologist to allow her to do her job?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I have called Deputy McManus.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Silence for Lady Wicklow.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister for Defence is getting into bad habits.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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He is the champion heckler.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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When will the health capital programme be released?

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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I note the Minister was given ample time to answer a question, which I really did not ask. He stressed co-operation many times. What about his co-operation to ensure that the public capital programme is started to meet the needs for additional capacity? No matter how hard the nurses and doctors work, without beds they cannot deal with the crisis.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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That is the issue.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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It is the responsibility of the Minister for Finance and it would appear to those of us on the outside that he is holding up the capital programme.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is most unfortunate — it seems this will be the case from here to eternity — that when we have a problem in the health service, people simply point the finger at the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Health and Children. The resources that are being applied to this area——

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Where is the capital programme?

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Much more is allocated now than when Deputy Howlin was in the Department of Health.

Photo of Johnny BradyJohnny Brady (Meath, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputies opposite do not want to hear the truth.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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What is the truth?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I was the first Minister for Health and Children to obtain a multi-annual capital programme from my predecessor as Minister for Finance, which continues.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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The Minister, Deputy Cowen, got out of the Department of Health and Children pretty quickly.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The benefit is that in the past five or six years we have been in a position to put in place a capital programme, which was not the case previously when we essentially had a maintenance programme. We came into office with a capital programme which, based on the total assets employed in the health service, represented approximately 2% of the capital employed. That is a maintenance programme and not a capital programme. That is what we inherited.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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The problem is getting worse.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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We should have a calm and rational discussion.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Shouting will not resolve the problem.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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No capital programme has been released for this year.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Our health system, including the acute hospitals, is undergoing unprecedented modernisation. I could name all those ongoing projects. People called for a reorganisation and we have established the Health Service Executive, which should be fully operational by the end of May. This is a remarkable achievement considering the extent of reorganisation involved.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Where are the beds?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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We now have a central executive responsible for all acute hospital services in the country rather than being dissipated throughout the health board system. That public capital programme continues.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The Minister is in cloud cuckoo land.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is unprecedented in the history of the State. It is ludicrous to suggest this Minister and my predecessor have not provided resources, which far outstrip those allocated by any previous Government.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Where is the capital programme for this year?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy should have been listening. When he was Minister and when Deputy Noonan was Minister, the only time——

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Where is this year's programme? Twelve months ago 19 beds for Wexford General Hospital were announced by the former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to cease interrupting.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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When those Opposition Deputies were in the Department of Health, they did not know what their capital allocation would be from one year to the next, which is why we had such a disjointed approach to capital programmes.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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We never had a problem in Wexford General Hospital until this year.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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My predecessor changed the system and unprecedented resources are being given to those hospitals. The problems articulated this morning will be dealt with in the context of the rollout of that programme.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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We have listened to that for five years.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We need to move on. I appeal to the Minister and Deputies to stay within Standing Orders. As the Minister gave a long reply to a question, which was not within Standing Orders, the Chair allowed Deputy McManus to speak a second time. We will not debate this matter all morning. I call Deputy Sargent.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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The Minister is answering questions I did not ask. For example, there are 19 beds due in Wexford General Hospital.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made her point. Deputy McManus should resume her seat and allow Deputy Sargent's question.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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When are they going to be announced?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I suggest the Deputy submits a question on the matter.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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We are still waiting. It would take one minute to answer. That is the point.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am sorry Deputy.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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When was the contract signed? The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children said the Department of Finance was holding it up.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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We do not need a detailed answer.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy McManus can see the problem for the Chair when the Chair tries to be flexible. Please allow Deputy Sargent to speak.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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I am afraid that what happens is the Minister makes plans and in the meantime, people wait on trolleys. However, right across the country people are waiting for the Minister.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask Deputy McManus to resume her seat.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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There is probably potential for Leaders' Questions on Thursdays after all. If possible, can I deal with promised legislation and also the prospect of a debate? Given the proceedings of the Committee of Public Accounts meeting held yesterday, is the Minister amenable to a debate as Minister for Finance, given the serious overrun in costs that has been highlighted by the committee such as a doubling of costs in the building of a kilometre of road from 2000 to 2003?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I am asking whether a debate can be arranged and whether the Minister would be amenable to it. The question on the promised legislation arises from a meeting yesterday of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government at which the directives contained, or at least referred to in the building control Bill were discovered by the Department. A derogation will be sought until 2009 rather than January 2006.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is there a question on the legislation, Deputy? We must move on.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I appreciate that, but these are very pertinent questions concerning the building control Bill and whether the enactment of that directive will be implemented on time or if we will be in court again.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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On the building control Bill, Minister.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The building control Bill is expected to be enacted later this year and will incorporate the matter mentioned by the Deputy and will implement EU Directive 2002/91/EC on the energy performance of buildings.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Three years late.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Is that the directive referred to by Deputy Sargent?

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The question was when the Bill would be published.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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Willie should take over and do it himself.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The Bill will be published later this year. As to the Deputy's earlier question, the ordering of debate in this House is a matter for the Whips in the first instance.

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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On a point of order, the ordering of debates in this House is not a matter for the Whips in the first instance but is a matter for the Government and the Government Whip get instructions——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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On the Order of Business, the only appropriate question is on debates that have already been promised. If a debate has not been promised, then presumably it is a matter for the Whips.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister is aware that road safety is very much in the news and we are currently debating the Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill. It is on Second Stage in the House and it was revealed in the newspapers yesterday that a Government-commissioned report on the suitability of this agency actually recommends that it be abandoned as it is wholly inadequate and inappropriate to meet its wider road safety objective. What is the status of the Bill? Will it be withdrawn?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister should answer on the legislation.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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As things stand, the Bill is being dealt with in the House. The Government has sponsored and is proceeding with the Bill.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The report has recommended a rethink.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy should take the matter up with the line Minister.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister does not know the answer.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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In his capacity as Minister for Finance, will the Minister make sufficient funding available to the poor Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to enable the State Pathologist to reach crime scenes?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I suggest the Deputy submits a question to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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It is a relevant matter regarding a most important issue.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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It does not arise on the Order of Business. There are other ways the Deputy can raise the issue in the House.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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It pertains to the Estimates. Are the Estimates not a relevant matter?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is a Supplementary Estimate promised?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Not to my knowledge.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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On the same issue, the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill has been promised. Arising from that, can we have an answer from the Minister on this very simple issue? The State Pathologist has been grounded.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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This issue does not arise on the Order of Business. There are other ways the Deputy can raise this issue in this House.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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We need to ensure that she can get to the scene of a crime as quickly as possible. Can we have an answer on that simple issue?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We cannot have an omnibus Question Time on the Order of Business.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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It undercuts the whole basis of our criminal justice system if the State Pathologist cannot get to the scene of a crime.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Chair will try to facilitate the Deputy if he wishes to raise it in the proper fashion.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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The Minister wants to answer.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Can we have an answer from the Minister?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister may answer on the legislation.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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The Minister knows the importance of this issue.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The issue does not arise.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The legislation is due——

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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The State Pathologist has been grounded.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy O'Keeffe should resume his seat.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The legislation is due to be enacted next year. The Garda vote has been increased by 90% since this Government came into office. It now totals €1.1 billion. It is a matter for Garda management to deal with that budget.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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Where have the good times gone?

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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The Minister is taking a"Pontius Pilate" approach.

Tim O'Malley (Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Limerick East, Progressive Democrats)
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That was unnecessary.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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What is the status of the Third Level Student Support Bill, No. 41 on the Government's legislative programme? Its publication is not listed and it is not possible to indicate a date at this stage. It is a Bill to place all student support schemes on a statutory footing. Given that it is unlikely that this Bill will be in place for the academic year starting in September 2005, can the Minister give any indication that the Third Level Student Support Bill will be published and processed by this House in time for the academic year starting in 2006?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am informed that it is not possible to say at this stage when that Bill will come before the House.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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So probably not.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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There are discussions taking place between the Department and all the stakeholders. The Bill is envisaged to place all student support schemes on a statutory footing, including the designation of an appropriate awarding authority and to repeal the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts 1968 to 1992.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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I want to pursue the issue raised by Deputy Olivia Mitchell regarding the Minister for Transport who appears to be found wanting regarding a Bill he has before the House. What is happening to the other Bills? In May 2003, we were told the critical infrastructure Bill, the transport reform Bill and the transport companies Bill would be published in 2004 as would legislation pertaining to the whole Dublin transport issue. Two years later, not one of those Bills has been published. All three of them are not promised until 2006 and an indicative publication date cannot even be given for the other issue. What is happening in the Department of Transport?

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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Nothing.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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It seems to be losing all sense of direction and there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by the Government regarding this portfolio which is crucial to the delivery of an efficient infrastructure.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should permit the Minister to reply to his question on legislation.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the progress made by the National Roads Authority and others knows that the Department of Transport is making unprecedented progress in rolling out the national development plan which, according to the ESRI's mid-term evaluation, is providing a return of up to 16% on the investment.

Tim O'Malley (Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Limerick East, Progressive Democrats)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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Has the Minister no responsibility?

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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It is a Government of indecision.

Joe Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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I thank the Ceann Comhairle for this opportunity. Is it proposed to amend the Health Act 2004? I will state the reason for the question. In the first instance, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children and then yesterday evening, the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, stated in the Dáil that the Health Service Executive has the responsibility, whereas the executive states that it has not been provided with the funding.

Tim O'Malley (Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Limerick East, Progressive Democrats)
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I never said that. Deputy Sherlock is running again.

Joe Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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If the services are not provided, does the Minister intend to amend the legislation so that funding can be provided? Is the Government abdicating its responsibility on this issue?

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Is the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, running again?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise on the Order of Business.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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What Bill is Deputy Sherlock referring to?

11:00 am

Joe Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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The Health Act 2004 which was brought into force in January. The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children and then yesterday evening the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, are on record as stating in this House that the Health Service Executive has responsibility to provide and deliver the services. However, the executive has stated it is not provided with the funding and is waiting for it.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I suggest that the Deputy submit a question to the Minister.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The Opposition berated me when I stuck rigidly to the Order of Business on an earlier occasion in the House. I come in to the House in good form on the third day of the Irish National Hunt Festival at Punchestown and I get a hard time from the Opposition. It is unbelievable; I cannot win.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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The Minister was not bad at berating people when he was in Opposition.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is such a long time ago I cannot remember it.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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I hope the Minister will be around long enough to remember it very shortly. Everybody, including Fianna Fáil backbenchers, now accepts that this country is suffering from over-regulation pursued by the Government.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Hogan, without interruption.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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Obviously, I touched a nerve in Cork. When will the Minister for Finance bring forward the company law reform Bill? I am glad the Minister of State Deputy Michael Ahern, does not agree with me.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I understand the Bill will brought forward and enacted next year and that the heads of the Bill are expected shortly. A document entitled "Regulating Better" informs Government policy. Perhaps at his next front bench meeting, Deputy Hogan might ask his colleagues to desist from seeking to set up more agencies and seeking more accountability and red tape so that we can possibly have a coherent exercise in all of this.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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On the issue of the State pathologist, the Government must respond to my question today.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is aware of how the matter can be raised and the Chair will try to facilitate him.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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It is dangerous to allow the situation to continue in light of the current crime rate.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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In view of the increased availability of natural gas from offshore sources and on-shore sources such as leakage from legal and illegal landfill sites and inland and Dublin bay sewage treatment plants——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Does the Deputy have a question appropriate to the Order of Business?

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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My question is quite appropriate because of the dangers presented and the leakage from the Government benches as well. When is it proposed to bring the Natural Gas Regulations Bill before the House?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Minister, Department of Finance; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The Bill is expected to come before the House in 2006.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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Did it require legislation or any form of regulation for the Leader of the Seanad to get two new drivers recently?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That question does not arise on the Order of Business.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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If the Leader of the Seanad can get two new drivers, the State pathologist should be able to get two new drivers as well.